Enjoying the South Downs National Park safely in the light of Coronovirus (COVID 19)

These are difficult times for us all and we know many would normally seek solace in the South Downs National Park. However, as recent weeks have shown, many people are flocking to this and other National Parks, increasing the risk to themselves and others. We want you and our communities to stay safe.

The  Government advice to help reduce the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) outlines the very few circumstances in which we should be leaving our homes. People are being asked not to travel to exercise but instead to exercise near their own homes only once a day, following the social distancing guidelines.

This is not the time to travel to visit the South Downs National Park. That time will come again and we will welcome everyone back with open arms.

Until then: Stay at Home, exercise safely near you following Government guidance. Together we can save lives and protect our amazing NHS.

Defra – the government department responsible for National Parks – has provided guidance on access to green spaces.

Our own staff, including our rangers, are following Government guidance and only getting fresh air once a day near their own homes.

Our commitment to you is that we will keep bringing the South Downs virtually to you in your homes until you are able to get out and enjoy the National Park again.

For residents lucky to live in the National Park you can continue to enjoy the National Park near you to get your exercise, but again, do not travel to other parts of the National Park to exercise.

Kate Drake, who leads on health and well-being for the South Downs National Park, says everyone has a part to play in helping and saving lives.

The Government is clear that people who are not self-isolating should be minimising time spent away from their homes, but people can leave their home to exercise once a day, provided it is done alone or with members of their immediate household and that they are not travelling to do so.

Based on the strict Government guidance, here is Kate’s advice for staying healthy safely and responsibly:

  • Keep it local. A short walk, run or cycle around your block or village green away from others is enough to feel the warmth of the spring sun.
  • Try and make the time you spend outside of your household as short as possible.
  • Do not meet or exercise in groups of more than 2 unless it is with your immediate household.
  • Follow the Government advice and maintain a 2m distance from others while out exercising, whether that be walking, running or cycling.
  • If you’re going for a walk on your own, let others know of your whereabouts and take a mobile phone with you.
  • Walking your dog is a great way to get our daily exercise and is good for them too. If you are out walking with your dog please Take the Lead and do so responsibly. Keep your dog on the lead to protect ground nesting birds and livestock. We have had reports of lambs being killed by dogs off the lead in the last week. So, stick to the path and keep your furry friend on a lead to keep them, our wildlife and livestock safe. Find out more about how to Take the Lead.

Kate is also offering simple and stress-free ways that people can enjoy, learn and engage with the South Downs National Park remotely.

Kate says: “We know that the next few weeks are going to be difficult and challenging for lots of people. We know this is going to feel very far from “normal” and many people are feeling anxious.

“The Government has been very clear that time spent away from your home should be minimised. With 117,000 residents in the National Park, we know many people will want to exercise in their local part of the National Park and that’s why we’re giving this updated advice so it can be enjoyed safely and responsibly.

“These are unprecedented times, but we can all work together to reduce the impact of this virus on our communities and NHS. Please do not travel to exercise.

“Working together we can all help during this coronavirus crisis and the South Downs National Park, our businesses and communities will be ready to welcome everyone when it is once again safe to do so. Stay safe.”

Kate encouraged people to connect with nature remotely by following the National Park’s social media channels and reading the monthly e-newsletter.

She added: “We are really stepping up remote ways for people to connect with nature, including virtual walks of stunning beauty spots in the National Park, a 10th anniversary online quiz competition, as well as online resources for children such as our Learning Zone.

“The South Downs is a very much a community of those living within and outside the National Park and it’s great that so many people are sharing inspiring photographs of places they love on their social media. This is a great way for people to connect who may be unable to leave their home and perhaps are dealing with loneliness. It’s important we all support each other in this challenging time.”

Kate’s five ideas to connect with nature remotely:

  • Join a virtual walk. The South Downs National Park has a number of walks at beauty spots. Find them on the National Park’s video section on Facebook.
  • Enjoy our wonderful wildlife. The National Park’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels are a treasure trove of South Downs flora, fauna and breathtaking landscapes, including stunning footage of otters, reptiles, birds, our magical woodlands, and colourful chalk grassland.
  • Be part of the South Downs National Park community. Join the conversation on our social media channels, share images of your favourite places in the National Park and join our newsletter for updates about the National Park.
  • For parents with children at home, check out the South Downs Learning Zone. Designed for educators, this user-friendly site is packed with downloadable resources on everything from wildlife to woodlands. Why not spend a couple of hours learning about the natural world and doing one of the fun indoor activities?
  • Join our 10th anniversary online quiz competition! We’ll be launching this in April with the chance to win a hamper worth £150 using a range of local goods that are helping to support local businesses. Check out our social media and newsletter for more updates.
  • Follow the daily wildlife diaries from the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
Sunrise over chalk downland viewed from Wilmington Hill, Willmington, South Downs National Park. Picture by Guy Edwardes